Mijares: Research shows consistent attendance is critical to a student’s academic success

This is a special time of year for educators.

desk-of-al-smallWhile a number of Orange County schools welcomed students back in August, September is the month when all of our campuses are officially back in session, each bustling with a mix of anticipation and extraordinary promise.

There are plenty of new faces, of course, as students advance grade levels, staff members change work sites and first-year educators embark on long and meaningful careers. We even have a handful of new superintendents in Orange County. Each brings stellar credentials and the passion to drive their respective districts to new heights.

Not coincidentally, September also happens to be Attendance Awareness Month, which is a good time to emphasize just how critically important it is for our students to avoid unnecessary absences throughout the year.

We know that children and teenagers can miss school for a variety of reasons. But chronic absenteeism continues to be alarmingly prevalent, particularly among low-income, homeless and transient student populations.

Our solutions should go beyond raising awareness. Schools and districts across the country must leverage proactive policies that effectively monitor trends, reward successes and build relationships with families. Through outreach and collaboration within our communities, we can remove some of the barriers that keep students off campus, including health issues and a lack of reliable transportation.

Getting off to a good start is key. According to Attendance Works, an initiative that promotes school attendance policies and practices, approximately half of all students who are absent just two to four days in September will miss nearly a month of school during the year. Unfortunately, an estimated 5 million to 7.5 million U.S. students will do just that, compromising their access to a quality education.

Additional research compiled by Attendance Works suggests frequent absences can strongly influence whether children will read proficiently by the end of the third grade. By grade six, poor attendance emerges as a leading indicator that a student will drop out of high school.

By contrast, students can improve academically and better their chances of graduating if we can help them get to school on time each day.

With a new year comes new challenges, but it also presents new opportunities for greatness. In Orange County, we have the people and resources to take our game to the next level and to make good on our vision of leading the nation in college and career readiness and success.

Making sure our kids are in class and ready to learn is the first step.